Survival Guide: The Book All Survivalist and Preppers Need ( 3 in 1 ) (2016)
Navigating Your Way Through The Wilderness
When stranded in the wild, one of the most significant tools you can ever dream to have is a compass. What is the main purpose of a compass? Well, simple; you need a compass to capture accurate bearings and establish a direction using those bearings, or to tell you where North, East, West, and South are.
Well, when it comes to navigation, people are always concerned about bearings first, which is often the wrong approach. Taking bearings can be crucial to ascertain your position, to travel towards a certain feature, or to move through a featureless landscape. However, the most important thing to keep in mind when navigating using a compass is to know which way is South, and which is North, and then use this information to set your map accordingly. But that is neither here nor there.
Today, we are going back to the basics; to the ways of our ancestors - how to navigate through the wilderness without a compass, or, as the experts like to call it - celestial navigation. There are several broad ways of finding direction without a compass. We will look at three of these:
1. Using the moon as the reference point
2. Using the north star
3. Using the sun
Using The Moon
#1. To Find South Or North
You can use the moon to find north or south direction, except for a couple of nights every month. Since the moon does not produce its own light, it reflects the light from the sun, thus indicating the position of the sun.
A general rule of thumb
If the moon is crescent, just draw an imaginary line touching the tips of the “horns” to the horizon. Where the line ends is roughly North for the s. hemisphere and South for the n. hemisphere.
#2. To Find East - West
The moon can also be used to come up with a general east - west direction. If it rises before sunset, then the illuminated side faces west, and if it rises after midnight, then the lighted side is facing east.
Our earth rotates on its own axis to produce day & night, while the moon revolves around the earth, taking about 1 month to complete a moon phase cycle. In this time, we see different scopes of the moon from the earth, but when it is standing between the sun and the earth, it appears invisible. Then, as it travels away from the shadow of the earth at around sunset, the sun, which is in the western position, illuminates it. After midnight, it has already reached the other side of our planet, and we can see it as the eastern sunlight casts a gleam on it.
Using The North Star
#3. To Find North
Every wilderness traveler in the Northern hemisphere should be familiar with how to find the North Star. Navigation using the stars is an ancient skill that still comes in handy today, when the sky is clear.
The North Star or the Pole star determines the location of north, wherever you are in the northern hemisphere. While it is not very bright, it maintains the same position in the sky.
To find the North Star, Cassiopeia (W-shaped) and the Big Dipper are useful. These two constellations are always on the move, but they remain visible during a clear night. Their position is usually determined by the geographical location, date, and time. The reason why stars seem to be moving across the sky is the rotation of the Earth around its axis. To locate north:
*Look for the Big Dipper first by following the end of the cup 5x its length towards a relatively bright star. This is the North Star.
*To ascertain that it is actually the North Star, find Cassiopeia. The Pole star usually sits halfway between the Big Dipper and Cassiopeia.
#4. Navigating By The Sun
The sun is the simplest and most significant tool you can use to navigate through the wilderness without a compass and map. The sun rises in the east and sets in the west. At noon, when it is at its highest point, it will be either in the north (southern hemisphere) or south (northern hemisphere). In winter, shadows will be noticeably long because the sun will be lower in the sky.
Pockets are commonly trusted and used to find north and south directions, but the apparent simplicity of using this method may provide a wrong impression of its accuracy, as it can lead to an error of up to 20 degrees. Accurate results will require you to have a table of the direction of the sun, which you probably won’t be carrying, unless you are a committed natural navigator. In any case, there are certain instances where you may obtain fairly correct directions.
Some general rules of thumb
*Only use in latitudes 40 to 60 degrees south or north of the equator, as shown in the picture below.
*The closer you get to the equator, the lower the accuracy of this method becomes.
With the hour hand facing directly towards the sun, bisect the angle between 12 o’clock and the hour hand, with the imaginary line running north/south. To ascertain which end is south, keep in mind that the sun always rises in the east, is due south at noon, and sets in the west (for the N. hemisphere).
On the other hand, if you’re in the S. hemisphere, point the 12 o’clock mark towards the sun, and bisect the angle between the 12 o’clock mark and the hour hand. Keep in mind the sun is due north at noon in the southern hemisphere.